The election of Jack Warner to the Trinidad & Tobago parliament has received a rather muted reaction in the Guyana media. Yet, given the similarities between the political landscapes of Guyana and the twin island republic, this historic victory is rather instructive, especially for those who claim that Indians do not tend to support politicians from outside their ranks.
The problem is that in the context of Guyana, there is no Jack Warner. Warner, an African, who has a range of criminal allegations hovering over his head, won overwhelmingly, in a predominantly Indian district and one that was touted as a safe, traditional UNC stronghold. But the reason for Warner’s victory is rooted in his concrete, emotive and continual servicing of his constituents. True, Guyana’s electoral system is somewhat different, but the reality is that Guyana has no politician who can currently appeal to voters of an ethnic group that is different from the one to which he/she belongs.
And, in spite of the assertions by some that the PPP government has been worse than the PNC government, the reality is that Indians would be quite hesitant to support a PNC regime under which they not only had their nightmarish experiences, but which has, to date, refused to acknowledge that it rigged elections, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it did. Nor has the PNC done anything, in opposition, to earn the trust and confidence of Indian voters, especially given the decidedly Afrocentric thrust of its current leader, David Granger. Thus, for Indians, any alternative to the PPP would also have to be an alternative to the PNC; a force that would offer a real possibility of electoral victory, based on a multi-racial structure, modus operandi and agenda and the propagation of a government that would be bereft of the excesses practised by the PPP and the PNC. In short give Guyanese Indians a Jack Warner and you’ll see how fast they would desert the PPP!
Given Guyana’s realities, many had thought that the AFC, which has offered glimpses of multi-racial politics, would have been able to establish that bridge between the two major races. However, such a bridge, if it does exist, is very tenuous at best and certainly does not span significant segments of the two major races.
And post-election machinations by the AFC would only have served to increase the tenuousness.
This fragility aside, the actions by some AFC leaders have raised eyebrows in many quarters. Yes everyone has to make a living but, rhetoric aside, just what was the message sent by Nigel Hughes in deciding to undertake the defence of the Lusignan murder accused? And given that the AFC has opposed the Amaila Hydro Project, one must wonder about Nigel Hughes’ involvement in the company overseeing the hydro project, even if this involvement predated his climb to the AFC chairmanship. New politics would have demanded that any conflict of interest be quickly and easily resolved in favour of one’s political convictions. Ditto for Cathy Hughes’ involvement as well.
Undoubtedly allegations that the Hugheses are using their political capital for personal advancement would continue to flourish. And the AFC would continue to lose both ground and credibility in this process.